Dedan K. Bruner
The Misadventures of a 3rd Grade Spy
Updated: Feb 6, 2020
It started like any other after school pick-up. When I got there, my daughter Ella was in aftercare working on her latest piece of soon-to-be refrigerator art. We made eye contact, but rather than walk towards her I sat on a near-by bench - a signal to her that we're not in too big of a rush and that she has a few extra minutes to finish whatever she's working on. As I watched, a younger student approached the teacher in charge giving the universal "I have to pee" sign (holding her crotch and standing with knees held firmly together). The teacher asked Ella if she'd walk the younger girl to the bathroom. My daughter looked at the girl, looked at the teacher, then returned to her "art." I was crushed. Who was this kid? More importantly, what did she do with my kind, respectful, always ready to help, daughter? The short-term fix was easy, Ella would need to write a letter of apology to the aftercare instructor and would need to deliver an in-person apology to the kid she dissed. I went to bed less certain what long-term fix we could employ.
One of the challenges of parenting is coaching your kids without crushing them. As important as communicating the need for Ella to do better is, I always want to make sure her mother and I are creating opportunities for her to grow, hone, and use the leadership tools we are trying so desperately to impart.
The Solution: The James Armistead Lafayette, Royal Society of Espionage.
The Latin phrase, aut viam inveniam aut faciam (translation: we shall find a way or make one) was reportedly the response the Hanibal gave his military advisors when they told him that he could not cross the Swiss Alps on Elephants to invade Italy back in 216 B.C.
While I don't have the elephants and financial resources of the ancient general, he didn't have a Macbook or the internet. While looking for ideas for spy missions, I came across the profile of James Armistead Lafayette, an enslaved spy during the Revolutionary war. The contributions of the enslaved double-agent were the perfect foundation of our imaginary spy school. The James Armitage Lafayette, Royal Society of Espionage's founding principles - Leadership, Integrity, Service, & Truth are known internally as The L.I.S.T. While much of the school is shrouded in secrecy (read: I haven't come up with it yet), I do know that Missions will center around discovering incredible stories that exemplify what the L.I.S.T is all about. Who knows, Ella may even come to learn that the L.I.S.T. may have a deeper, more secret meaning.
Future Covert Missions
Future spy missions (each delivered via email) are certain to include:
L.I.S.T. Updates - Reports on real-life examples of Ella's ongoing commitment to the L.I.S.T.;
Reconnaissance Reports - Detailed photographs and summaries of museum exhibits, landmarks, and other local treasures of important to The Lafayette Society; and
Spycraft Training - Opportunities to build the skills invaluable to any operative (e.g. navigation, geo-tracking, code-breaking, critical-thinking, photography, quiet observation, science experiments, and note-taking.).
At the end of the day. I have no clue if the kid will take to the idea. Most parents can attest to huge efforts falling short, receiving only a "that's cool" for their work. On the flip side, some of us can remember times where our imagination, supported by a parent's enthusiasm, created something magical. My hope, of course, is that we'll be able to create the latter and Ella will grow as a leader along the way.